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The Society of Friends in Woburn

The Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers, was founded by George Fox in the middle of the 17th century. A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers Volume I was published in 1753 and covers acts against Quakers from 1650 to 1689 throughout the country. Each county has a chapter and that for Bedfordshire notes a major incident in Woburn in 1670 [note the original spelling].

"By a Law then made, intituled, An Act to prevent and suppress seditious Conventicles [a conventicle being a small religious meeting] imposing Fines both on Preachers and Hearers, and giving one Third to the Informer or Informersd, the vilest of Men were encouraged to prey upon the Conscientious. This induced Thomas Dier, a Barber in Wooburne, to inform the Officers there of a Meeting at the House of William Albright. the Officers went to the House, and called William Albright out, but neither went in, nor saw who else was there. However, they, with Dier, went next Morning to Justice Charnock at Sawford [Salford], and gave in the Names of such Persons as they supposed to be at the Meeting, and obtained the following Warrant, viz."

"To all the Constables, Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of Wooburne, to either or any of them"

"Whereas the Persons here udnerwritten have, contrary to the late Act of the present Parliament, met at a Conventicle at Wooburne aforesaid, and do stand convicted thereof by the Oaths of two or more Witnesses, that the said Persons underwritten, did meet under Pretence of Religion, at the House of William Albright of Wooburne sforesaid, upon the 15th Day of this Instant May, 1670, to the Number of above four Persons, besides the Persons usually residing in the family of the said William Albright. These are therefore in his majesty's Name to command you, or either of you, upon the Sight hereof, to demand of thes everal Persons underwritten, the several Sums set upon them, they being according to the said Act fined".

"IMPRIMIS, William Albright, for permitting the said Conventicle at his House, the Sum of £20".

"William Albright, for being present at the said Conventicle, the Sum of 5 s. The Wife of the said William Albright, for being present at the same Conventicle, the sum of 5 s. For the Speaker, whose Name cannot be known, fined £20 to be levied upon all present at the same Conventicle. The Wife of Francis Coleman, for being at the same Conventicle, 5 s. Sarah Baker, for being at the same Conventicle 5 s. Thomas Sinfield, for being at the same Conventicle 5 s. Mary Saunders, for being at the same Conventicle, 5 s. Robert Gurney, for being at the same Conventicle 5 s."

"And if the said Persons do upon Demand refuse to pay you the several Sum or Sums of Money by Fine set opin them, that you, and every of you, levy upon the Offenders Goods and Chattels, the said several Sum or Sums of Money by Distress and Sale of the said Offenders Goods, returning the Overplus. Given under my Hand and Seal this 16th Day of May 1670 - St. John Charnock".

"The Justice farther directed that the Speaker's Fine of £20 should be leived, £5 thereof on William Albright, £5 on George Galsey and the other £10 on William Cooke of Bowbrick-hill: Accordingly, Galsey had his Haycock taken away, and Cooke his Cart, Hay, houshold Stuff, and other Things. Robert Gurney, for his Fine of 5 s. had a Kettle taken worth 8 s. and Mary Saunders, for her Fine, has six Pewter Plates taken worth 12 s. dome of which were her Mother's, who at that Time received Alms of the Parish".

"But far more severe were the Sufferings of William Albright, for on the 6th, 8th and 9th of the Month called August this Year, one Bumstead, a Bayliff's Follower, with others, came to his House, and by Warrant from the said Justice Charnock, broke openhis Doors, and took away Timber, Malt, Oats and other Things to the value of above £70. Howbeit, the said Albright continued stedfast, in permitting religious Meetings at his House, til by repeated Seizures he was so impoverished, that having nothing left to satisfy the Fines, he was committed to Prison about the Month of October this Year".

"Although Albright was now close shut up, his Heart and House continued open to his Friends, who held their religious Meetings there as before, in Faith and Patience: At one of them Mercy Cartwright and Thomas Harvey, being present, were fined £10 each for a supposed Preacher, though the Meeting was held in Silence: Such Mistakes the Justices frequently made, for they not understanding the Nature of performing spiritial Worship in an awful and holy Stillness, took for granted that where a Meeting was, a Preacher must be".

"Robert Gurney and Francis Ireland, for Tithes of 10 s. each, sufferes Distress; the former to the Value of 30 s. and the latter of 22 s."

William Albright had form in this area. We know a man of that name was in Bedford Gaol in 1662, at the same time as John Bunyan, so were a James Albright, a Francis Coleman and an Edward Baker [HSA1662/W/1].

In 1664 the following Woburn residents were presented at the Assizes for not attending Church [HSA1664/S/1]: James Albright, yeoman; Francis Coleman, yeoman; William Albright, yeoman; Francis Ireland, yeoman. Edward Baker, yeoman; Dina Wilson; Hugh Aubrie, yeoman and Thomas Coleman,yeoman. William Albright, Francis Coleman and Francis Ireland were again presented in 1668 [HSA1668/W/31] and Albright and Ireland again the next year [HSA1669/W/15] with Albright and Coleman again in 1670 [HSA1670/S/4]. He was still being presented for the same offence as late as 1678 [HSA1678/W/16] along with Francis Coleman, Francis Ireland, Willam and Joseph Barber and Sarah Baker.

In 1667 James Albright of Aspley Guise married Elizabeth Yorke of Hanslope [Buckinghamshire]. A Quaker marriage certificate survives [HW57] the witnesses being William Albright, Thomas Ballard, Richard Hartwell, Henry Biggs, John Yorke, Richard Marks, Hugh Albright and Joseph Yorke.